Local grads join disaster relief PDF Print E-mail
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 22 July 2013 09:11
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Alena Hernandez and Ali Walker
Long after the news cameras and reporters have cleared the scene, the damage from major disasters like Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the northeastern coast, remain evident.
That's when people like 26-year-old Alena Hernandez, a graduate of Elmwood High School, and 28-year-old Alison "Ali" Walker, a Bowling Green High School alumna, move in.
Hernandez and Walker are among 331 young people now serving in the first class of FEMA Corps, a new unit of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps., solely devoted to disaster preparedness and response.
Their service has called both of the Wood County women into the thick of disaster response.
"There were homes that were just toppled over ... Uninhabitable still," Walker said of her time in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.
"After the media coverage dies down, people don't realize how much still needs to be done. That's where we come in," Walker said.
Hernandez and Walker are team leaders for FEMA Corps and are charged with leading a small group of 18-to 24-year-olds.  The groups work directly with disaster survivors, conduct administrative disaster management tasks, share disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts and contribute data to the national disaster recovery database. Their service with FEMA Corps is for 11 months.
Both the women received extensive training before being deployed to Hurricane Sandy.
Hernandez's group of seven members was sent to New Jersey following the storm for hazard mitigation. They updated flood plain maps, helped with substantial damage estimates, and gathered data and pictures to update the national database.
While much has been restored and rebuilt, many residents are still feeling the impact of Sandy, which hit the coastline in October.
"About two months ago we went in and shoveled out sand from someone's home," Hernandez said.
She and her team are now back working on Sandy's aftermath for a second time, this time in New York.
"I am still seeing damaged homes and people who are still under reconstruction," she said.
Walker's team was deployed to New York City after Hurricane Sandy. Her team provided assistance to private, non-profit organizations, like hospitals, to get them back up and running as quickly as possible.
The team also worked in hazard mitigation and repetitive loss prevention. They completed inspections on homes and entered the data into the national database and identified properties in high-risk flood hazard areas.
The team's next project will be in Oakland, Calif. where they will work on disaster planning.
"It's an experience you wouldn't be able to get any other way," Walker said. "It's been really great getting to lead a team and see their interest grow."
Last Updated on Monday, 22 July 2013 10:24

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